Federal staff on the Environmental Safety Company are preventing to maintain Andrew Wheeler, Donald Trump’s controversial second head of the Environmental Safety Company and a former coal lobbyist, from changing into Virginia’s prime environmental official.
Earlier this month, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) introduced Wheeler as his decide to function secretary of pure sources. The selection outraged state Democrats and environmental teams, who described Wheeler as “absolutely the worst decide” for the publish.
AFGE Council 238, a union that represents greater than 7,500 EPA staff nationwide, has joined the trouble to dam Wheeler’s nomination. In a letter to Virginia state senators on Thursday, Marie Owens Powell, the union’s president and a longtime EPA worker, wrote that Wheeler “destroyed or weakened dozens of environmental safeguards at EPA, with the only intention of bolstering polluting industries’ revenue margins.”
They warned that Virginia may anticipate the identical of him.
“There are few who perceive extra acutely the menace Mr. Wheeler poses to [the Virginia Department of Natural and Historic Resources] and the pure atmosphere that Virginians cherish than these of us who noticed first-hand the impression of Mr. Wheeler’s misguided management on the EPA,” the letter reads.
Public backlash to Youngkin’s nominee units the stage for what’s prone to be a contentious affirmation course of. Democrats keep a 21-19 majority in Virginia’s state Senate. As The Hill reported, two key average Democrats have signaled that they’re unlikely to assist Wheeler for the job.
Wheeler served because the EPA’s deputy administrator earlier than taking up for his scandal-plagued predecessor, Scott Pruitt, in 2019. Wheeler helped spearhead the Trump administration’s industry-friendly agenda, dismantling quite a few air pollution guidelines and different clear air and water safeguards to the advantage of the extractive industries that he as soon as represented as a lobbyist. Alongside the best way, he repeatedly downplayed the specter of international local weather change and sidelined scientific advisory committees.
Owens Powell, who has been with the EPA for practically three many years and works as an underground storage tank inspector in its Philadelphia workplace, stated the work atmosphere on the federal company throughout Wheeler’s tenure was “extraordinarily hostile.”
“The easy rejection of scientific ideas was simply so demoralizing to our employees,” she stated.
“It’s mind-boggling how I’ve to see him once more, at my again door this time.”
– Sharon Boyd, Virginia resident and former EPA worker
Throughout Wheeler’s tenure, the EPA scrubbed local weather change language from the company’s web site. And Wheeler questioned the outcomes of a sobering federal local weather evaluation, saying a few of its findings have been “based mostly on the worst-case situation.”
Owens Powell was shocked that Youngkin tapped Wheeler for the job given what she felt was a transparent and well-documented report on the EPA. If he’s confirmed, she fears he won’t solely trigger related injury in Virginia, however negatively impression the EPA’s capability to collaborate with the state company, finally making it harder to confront local weather change and different environmental threats.
“I couldn’t think about that anybody would have thought he could be a good suggestion for this place,” she informed HuffPost by cellphone. “It’s AFGE Council 238’s honest hope that somebody ready of authority will rise up for sound science and the enforcement of corresponding environmental legal guidelines and reject this nomination.”
Youngkin’s workplace didn’t instantly reply to HuffPost’s request for remark. However in a statement final week to The Related Press, a Youngkin spokesperson defended Wheeler’s nomination, saying he would rise up for the atmosphere.
A former non-public fairness govt, Youngkin is the primary Republican governor of Virginia since 2009. Considered one of his first actions after being sworn in Jan. 15 was to signal an govt order aimed toward withdrawing Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Fuel Initiative, a program that a number of states joined to slash greenhouse gasoline emissions from the ability sector.
It’s a transfer that Wheeler, who defended Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the historic Paris local weather settlement, would little doubt approve of, and one Owens Powell suspects Wheeler’s fingerprints are on. Wheeler was a member of Youngkin’s transition workforce.
The EPA union’s letter comes lower than per week after greater than 150 former EPA staffers urged Virginia state lawmakers to vote down Wheeler’s nomination. Of their own letter, the group stated the Trump official “sidelined science” on the EPA and “pursued an extremist strategy, methodically weakening EPA’s capability to guard public well being and the atmosphere, as a substitute favoring polluters.”
Sharon Boyd is a Virginia resident, longtime former EPA worker and previous vice chairman for civil rights at AFGE Native 3331. She shares her former colleagues’ issues. She informed HuffPost that in Trump’s time period, morale on the EPA was shot, and the “destruction” Wheeler prompted factored into her choice to retire in 2019 after practically 4 many years on the company.
“It’s mind-boggling how I’ve to see him once more, at my again door this time,” Boyd stated. “Proper right here at my again door.”
“I’m desirous about the truth that my grandchildren could not be capable of profit from among the issues I profit from, all as a result of we put the mistaken man in workplace.”